Our then-high school grandson kept coming up with these "hmmm" kind of gems. Like this:
"Life's different from school. In school, you have the lessons, then the test. In life, you have the test - then the lessons."
Like I said - "hmmmm."
We're hearing a lot about the need for more testing in this pandemic. To know what's going on inside people if we're going to contain, mitigate and trace this relentless virus.
Yes, we certainly need to be testing for coronavirus. But, fact is, the coronavirus has been testing us. With fear and financial distress. With disruption and distance. With loss of control and loss of connection.
There's something about a crisis like this that exposes a lot of what's inside. It's like there are three kinds of tests we're taking.
One is the family test. What's really more important to me - my family or my work? Many families are like those carnival bumper cars. Each morning we hit the gas pedal, head off in different directions - and occasionally bump into each other.
Suddenly, we're together a lot! Not many "different directions" to head off to. And all this time together can reveal differing diagnoses.
- My family relationships are healthy - communicating, forgiving, listening, laughing.
- Or we've become strangers. Through neglect.
- Or how toxic and hurtful our relationships have become.
First the test, then the lessons. Binging on being home may be exposing the consequences of our misplaced priorities. Business, busyness, causes, the gym, church, sports, activities - they can push those we love to the margins of our life. Taken for granted. Seldom listened to.
Maybe the lesson from the test is that the people in our family are treasures. That we need to "re-treasure." It's time to make some memories - while there's still time to do it. Make each day count for the people that count.
Beyond the family test, there's the façade test. Who's the real guy behind the façade that everybody sees? The way to find out what's in an unmarked tube is to squeeze it. Same with people. See what comes out when they're squeezed.
And, man, has this pandemic squeezed us all! Which may surface some ugly stuff that's normally behind our façade. An "all about me" bottom line. A smoldering anger. A "closet" control freak (who loses it when they can't control things). A mean spirit. A dangerous depression. A long-denied addiction.
Darth Vader's not the only one with a dark side. We all have one. And the pandemic squeeze may force it to the surface. That can be good - if we finally face that inner darkness.
Facing it may mean saying, "Please forgive me." Or, more important, saying, "Help!" A counselor, a pastor can help us understand the why behind the broken. What the squeeze has exposed could finally be healed. Facing it is the first step to fixing it - and being free from it.
I love the candor of the Bible writer who said, "I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Who will free me?" He found the answer to that "desperate to change" question - where millions have found it. "Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:19, 25).
The other coronavirus test is one that I've been taking a lot. The faith test. After all is said and done, where is my ultimate trust in life? I remember the Wall Street exec who said after the 2008 financial collapse, "If you'd asked any of us Christians where our faith was, we'd have said, ‘Oh, our trust is in God.' Until the things we really trusted in were suddenly gone." Boom.
Which basically comes down to trusting in human solutions, human methods and human strength.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart" - that's the Biblical prescription for a life-anchor you can't lose. But that requires faith. Our default "go to" is not faith - it's ourselves. It's not until that is suddenly stripped away that we finally go beyond believing in God to desperately needing God.
As the early Christian ambassador Paul said about his extreme hardships, "This happened, that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God" (2 Corinthians 1:9). I wonder if that's the most powerful lesson in this test. To release our tight grip on the wheel and say what we should have been saying all along - "Jesus, take the wheel!"
The relentless bombardment of this life-changing time may have revealed something eternally decisive. That what we've been trusting in is not enough for something this big. That what we have with God is a religion. And religion's not enough for the challenge. We need a God-relationship that carries us through the most violent storms of life - and even death.
For me, that's where Jesus comes in. Because He built the bridge from my lostness to His love. On a cross where He paid with His blood for the cure for my sin. And opened the way to something so much greater than a religion. An "unloseable" love relationship with the God who made me.
I suspect the tests aren't over yet. But neither are the lessons. There's meaning in the mayhem. There's a point to the pain.